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With a diverse range of products influenced by the country's rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, Mexico offers a plethora of exciting spirits to explore. As we anticipate the year 2024, let's take a closer look at some of the remarkable Mexican spirits that deserve your attention.
In addition to mezcal and tequila, Mexico produces whiskey and rum, showcasing its versatility in the distillation craft. Whiskey production in Mexico often follows the American style, utilizing corn as a key ingredient. This makes perfect sense considering that corn has been a staple in Mexican cuisine for thousands of years. While many are familiar with the various expressions of mezcal, there are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Some mezcals are known by regional names, and there are other spirits made from agave that do not qualify as mezcal. The vast range of Mexican spirits reflects the nation's diverse culture and natural resources.
Let's explore some examples of these exceptional Mexican spirits that are making waves in the market. In both the whiskey and tequila/mezcal segments there is a bottle waiting to be savored. As Food52 recently stated, “Mexico’s rich cultural culinary history and biodiverse landscape is mirrored in its spirits offerings . . . Though lesser known in the U.S., pox, sotol, and raicilla are three delicious Mexican spirits worth paying more attention to.
Image: Mezcal Farming; Image Source: Pinterest
A good example is an agave spirit that hails from Comitán de Domínguez, Chiapas. It is crafted by distilling fermented agave sap, known as aguamiel. Historically, the locals used aguamiel to make pulque, a traditional beer. Over time, they began distilling it, leading to the industrialization of Comiteco production in the early 20th century. However, the industry faced a setback when the agave supply was depleted in the 1960s, resulting in a ban until agave populations could recover. After more than 50 years, Comiteco has made a comeback. Its unique flavor profile, reminiscent of rum mixed with grass, smoke, and baked agave, intrigues bartenders and aficionados alike.
Raicilla is a lesser-known member of the Mezcal family. Historically, the Spanish outlawed mezcal to encourage Mexicans to purchase Spanish brandy and redirect money flow to Europe. However, distillers in western Jalisco found a workaround by producing raicilla and marketing it as a bitter healing potion. La Venenosa Etnica Tutsi Raicilla, a highly limited production from the coastal mountains between tequila's heartland and Puerto Vallarta, offers a glimpse into this intriguing spirit. Look for the rare Tutsi expression made from the Masparillo agave, which represents tradition and craftsmanship. Acquiring a bottle may be challenging, as only 60 were released.
There is also Mexican rum. Originating from the Sierra Mazateca mountains of Oaxaca, Paranubes Rum carries a legacy that spans three generations. Distiller José Luis Carrera oversees the entire process, from harvesting sugar cane to perfecting the final product. Carrera's unique fermentation technique involves removing half of the fermentation tank each day, distilling it, and then replenishing it with fresh cane juice. This method allows wild yeasts to contribute layers of flavor during fermentation. Paranubes Rum is ethereal, boasting a briny character reminiscent of black olives. It shines both as a standalone sipper and in classic cocktails like the Piña Colada, making it a favorite among bartenders.
Corn is central to Mexican culinary identity, and not surprisingly there is corn whiskey. Mexico has a long history of utilizing this versatile grain to produce alcohol. Although the exact origins of Mexican whiskey are unclear, several products available in the U.S. showcase heirloom varieties of Mexican corn. Pierde Almas Ancestral Corn Whiskey, currently available as a white whiskey, delivers a robust corn flavor. The brand also plans to release aged expressions in charred oak barrels. Crafted from ancestral heritage corn, this whiskey embodies the dedication and skill required to create an exceptional spirit.
Created by renowned mezcal producer Douglas French, Sierra Norte Whiskey presents an ambitious project focused on reviving endangered species of native corn. Each expression of this whiskey is defined by the specific type of corn used, including white, yellow, and black corn. After ageing in French oak barrels for eight months, the whiskey showcases its distinct characteristics. The black-corn bottling, in particular, offers a unique and unconventional flavor profile, featuring an earthy funk that will entice bourbon enthusiasts seeking new dimensions.
As we venture into 2024, it is evident that Mexico's spirits extend far beyond mezcal and tequila. The country's whiskey, rum, and agave distillates represent a fusion of cultural heritage and innovative craftsmanship. These spirits, along with numerous others, embody the diversity and dedication found in Mexico's vibrant spirits scene. So, whether you're an avid whiskey drinker or a tequila enthusiast, keep an eye out for these remarkable Mexican spirits as they continue to captivate and redefine the world of distillates.